Our worshipping life in the season ahead (sent 25th March)
Hi church family,
It's hard to know how to begin an email update like this. Changes are happening around us at a rapid pace. Many of you are feeling the acute effects of this pandemic at an emotional, physical and/or financial level. My heart breaks for those of you who have lost your jobs or are worried about the practical needs of your extended family members in the coming days and weeks.
As I write this email, the phrase "we're in this together" is in the forefront of my mind. All of humanity is in this together, but so is the body of Christ. Jesus has bound us together as one body where no one part is more important than another (Ephesians 4). For me, this is a comfort, an encouragement, and a challenge - to lay down all that is "mine" to serve the body. And as we do this, we can then reach out to a hurting world that Christ died for.
I really believe that this Sunday will be a special and significant time of worship together as we pray, worship and connect with each other at our Sunday Celebration online. Even with the government restrictions getting stricter each day, our team has a concrete plan to utilise technology to provide a reliable and engaging Sunday Celebration, 10am at thebillabong.churchonline.org.
But more importantly, I'd like to share with you, on behalf of our ministry leadership group, what we feel the Lord is saying at this time, and what our plans are for ministry as The Billabong moving forward.
Hearing God's whispers among the chaos
As a team, we started our meeting yesterday sharing scriptures, songs and images God has been placing on our heart. A few examples are:
Psalms 20, 91, 27:1-7, 2 Timothy 1:7, Isaiah 26:3-4 and 43:19, John 10:1-18, and the songs "God will make a way" by Don Moen and "Breakthrough" by Red Rocks Worship.
One person on our team shared a picture of The Billabong being a collection of water where people were coming to drink, but the water was coming not from a place, but from within us - overflowing as we each 'tap into it' individually.
As you find moments of stillness with God, we would love you to share any scriptures, songs, encouraging words or pictures God gives you (via. email or SMS to the church mobile: 0491 611 009)
Caring for one another
Our team are committed to giving special attention in the coming season to providing care and support to everyone who belongs to The Billabong family. We, along with other leaders and carers in our congregation, will do our very best to touch base with you via phone as often as possible - to pray with you and see if there is anything you need.
We will also provide assistance where needed for those struggling to connect with others using technology. We encourage you to join the private facebook group (click here) as this is our primary place of connecting as one large church family. Please reach out if you need help in this area.
Peace in the storm
We will also be using technology to provide reflections, prayers and encouragement as often as possible. To begin with, we will send daily midday text messages with a scripture/prayer we feel God wants us all to receive. Once things settle down a little, we hope to provide short devotionals as well. Again, please share with us anything God impresses upon your heart so we can share these with the whole church family.
Reaching our wider community
Our wider community is in great need right now. This is an opportunity to live out our vision to see communities transformed by the love of Christ. At present, we simply encourage you to contact us via email or the church mobile if you have supplies that people might need, or simple want to avail yourself to help. We will then be working to partner with other community organisations to help where we can, when we can.
If you know of someone in immediate need, please give us a call and we'll do what we can.
Gathering as one church family on Sundays
Some of you may be wondering "how is that even possible?" First, let me share with you some of the testimonies we received during or following our first Sunday Celebration online last Sunday:
"We really enjoyed the service last Sunday"
"Given that I'm not able to leave my house at present for medical reasons, I love that this allows me to be with you all"
"I'm so moved, almost in tears"
Also, one of our cleaners (whose Spanish speaking church actually used to meet in the old Billabong facility) told me he tuned in on Sunday. His phone automatically translates from English to Spanish for him, so he watched the whole service with live translation!
Sunday Celebrations online will clearly not be the same as physical gatherings, but I encourage you to have a go. You will see the worship, prayer leader and preacher via a video, and can 'type-chat' with everyone who is logged on via the 'chat' window. This Sunday, our team will also be logged on and ready to accept "Live Prayer" requests (this allows anyone to pray or talk privately with one of our team by private messaging, or a phone call if requested).
We've created a short guide called "How to join Sunday Celebrations Online" (click here). Please let us know if you have any questions or need someone to help set you up.
This Sunday, I want to share with you a message on how we, the church, can respond in a time of crisis like this. We're putting the rest of our "Life and Faith" series on hold for now so we can think prayerfully about the time, and opportunity, we are currently in.
Finally, please do stay safe, following the advice provided by the government, and reach out if you or someone close to you is in need in any way. Myself and our leadership team also value your prayers at this time. We trust that this is all in God's hands.
Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)
Grace and Peace
Luke and The Billabong Leadership Team
Church office mobile: 0491 611 009
Sunday Celebrations Online: thebillabong.churchonline.org
Email to The Billabong family Monday 23rd March - A Brief Update
Hi church family,
Firstly, I'm so glad that many of you were able to join together for our first church online yesterday. Despite the rush to pull things together at the end of last week, we had 25 people spread across 4 multipurpose rooms at the community centre and 70-80 people participating online. While it's certainly not the same as meeting together in person, we had some great feedback about the experience. We'll be smoothing out some of the small technical glitches this week and providing a very clear "guide for how to join church online" soon.
We have been in close communication with the relevant bodies this morning regarding the use of our community centre in the coming weeks. At this point in time our community centre will be closed to the public. We are seeking clarification on the use of our facility for some tenants, and will provide an update tomorrow after receiving further advice from the Uniting Church head office.
Our ministry leaders are meeting tomorrow to discuss ways we can care for one another, grow in faith and reach out to our community during this time. Sunday Celebrations will be online only for the foreseeable future and we will provide an update soon on what this will look like. Thank you for your patience as we work on this in the next 24 hours or so.
This is a completely unprecedented time for us, but this following verse has been strongly on my mind in recent days:
For the Lord has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
May we be empowered by the Holy Spirit to be the church, love others generously and think and act soundly and wisely in the season ahead.
As the office may be unattended at times, please contact us on the church mobile if there is anything you need: 0491 611 009
Grace and Peace